Sallies report highlights housing, social issues

  • 11/02/2014

By Alastair Bull

Auckland's unaffordable housing won't change unless the Government helps build homes, a Salvation Army social policy analyst says.

The Salvation Army's State of the Nation report, released today, says housing availability is getting worse and affordability is a real problem in Auckland, where the median priced house costs more than 10 years of the average gross wage or salary.

The Government has made some moves to fast-track housing along with councils, in particular opening up some more land and cutting compliance times and costs.

But the Salvation Army report's author, Alan Johnson, says he's doubtful the policy will make much difference because most new homes being constructed aren't affordable.

He says when housing was affordable in the past, the Government helped people buy homes and were active in building.

"They weren't necessarily building them directly, but they were active in directing their construction," he told NZ Newswire.

"We just think the government and the councils need to be more hands-on, and the government needs to have realistic budgets and not just simply throw a few tens of millions of dollars at a problem which is really a billion dollar problem."

Labour's policy is for the Government to build 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years, a policy which Mr Johnson said could be costly.

He said people needed to be realistic about what the cost could be, and said it was likely to take 10 years to put a major dent in the problem.

'No progress' in child poverty rates

Child poverty and housing affordability will remain problems until average New Zealanders decide something needs to be done, the Salvation Army says.

The Salvation Army's annual State of the Nation report says progress has been made in some key areas, with teenage pregnancy rates falling, recorded crime at a 24-year low and education achievement on the rise.

But the report says little has been done to reduce child poverty rates, and that housing availability and affordability have got worse, particularly in Auckland.

"As yet there are no signs that we are making any progress," Salvation Army social policy director Major Campbell Roberts says in the report.

"They can be seen as time-bomb issues."

Maj Roberts said more attention was needed on child poverty and housing, but that politicians wouldn't move until the public did.

The fact Governments hadn't been pressured by voters to address these issues implied the majority of voters weren't concerned about them, he said.

"These voters may not be aware of or may not understand the issues. Once they do understand, it may become clearer that New Zealanders care very deeply."

Of the 21 key indicator areas graded, the report says the best achievements were A minus grades in teen pregnancy rates and early childhood education, while lower infant mortality rates and overall crime rates earned a B plus grade.

However, a lack of progress in housing availability (especially in Auckland), child poverty and violence against children earned D grades.

It says housing availability is getting worse, but affordability may be improving outside Auckland, where there was a supply issue, and post-earthquake Christchurch.

Maj Roberts says he hopes New Zealanders as a whole will decide that these issues are a priority.

"New Zealand's strength and achievement as a nation is not found in economic indicators alone but in indicators that show the strength of our concern to deliver care, compassion and social justice to everyone."

Report a final warning for Govt

Opposition parties say the report should be the final warning for the Government to act on child poverty.

The Green Party says there is "no other way to read" the D rating for child poverty and the Government should act now.

"A D grade is nowhere near good enough for our children," says Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. "We can and we must make children the absolute priority and make Aotearoa New Zealand the best place in the world to grow up for all our children."

Ms Turei believes inequality will be the defining issue for the election and is promising to establish legislation to eradicate child poverty and make ministers accountable for "making real progress against real targets".

Labour leader David Cunliffe says while the report shows improvements, child poverty and lack of affordable housing are "time-bomb" issues for New Zealand.

"The report repeats calls for action to address these matters, as well as rising living costs and the number of families struggling to pay their bills," he says.

The party's Best Start package will help make a difference to fighting child poverty, he says.

Watch the video in the player above to see Firstline's interview with Sue Hay from the Salvation Army.

3 News/NZN

source: newshub archive